Has your business been asked to attend Coroner’s Court?

If someone passes away on your premises, or from an industrial disease developed because of your company, you may have to attend a Coroner’s Court.

Providing evidence in front of a judge – not to mention family of the deceased with an emotional interest in the case – can be difficult.

Because it involves the reputation of you and your company, it is highly advisable that you seek the proper representation, help and advice before aiding an investigation or attending Coroner’s Court.

What is a coroner and what do they do?

A coroner is a person who holds independent judicial office – known as the Coroner’s Court, or Coroner’s Office.

This person must be a doctor or a lawyer; in some cases they are both. They investigate violent or otherwise unnatural deaths.

The purpose of the Coroner Service (held at Coroner’s Court) is to establish:

  • Whether the case should go to a coroner’s inquest.
  • Ways to prevent similar deaths in future.

If you own or run a business, you may have to defend a case if a death occurred in the workplace, or as a result of the work the company does.

When is a death reported to a coroner?

Registrars of births and deaths, the police, or doctors report deaths to a coroner in certain circumstances. These include where is appears that:

  • No doctor examined the deceased during their last illness.
  • A doctor examined the deceased during the last illness but did not see the departed 14 days before or after death.
  • The cause of death is unclear.
  • The death occurred on the operating table or before the effects of an anaesthetic wore off.
  • The death happened at work, or was due to industrial disease or poisoning.
  • The death was unexpected or happened suddenly.
  • The death was unnatural.
  • The death was due to neglect or violence.
  • The death occurred in other suspicious circumstances.
  • The death occurred in police custody or in prison.

The coroner may wish to ask a pathologist to inspect the body and/or undertake a post-mortem examination, also known as an autopsy.

The coroner must call an inquest if the initial post-mortem examination and any tests that follow fail to determine the cause of death. Under these conditions, those responsible for doing so may not register the death.

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What is an inquest?

An inquest is an enquiry used to establish who has died. It also establishes how, when and where the death happened.

An inquest does not apportion any blame or liability, nor does it have a defence or prosecution team. However, it will hear evidence from the parties involved.

  • What happens if I – or an employee - is charged with causing the death?
    Where someone is charged for causing, assisting, or allowing a death, the coroner is likely to adjourn the inquest until a criminal trial is over.
  • Will a jury be present at the inquest?
    Most inquests do not involve a jury. However a jury may be present if:
    -  The death occurred in police custody or in prison.
    -  The death happened as a result of an accident at work.

The jury must establish the facts of the case and reach a verdict.  It cannot blame anyone for the death.

Can I challenge a coroner’s conclusion or make a complaint?

You may challenge a coroner’s decision or the conclusion of the inquest. You should do this as soon as possible because there will be a three month limit in some cases.

If you are thinking of challenging a verdict, it is recommended that you seek advice from lawyers who specialise in this particular area of law.

If you wish to complain about the coroner’s personal conduct, you should contact the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

I need to provide evidence at the coroner’s court – what should I do?

If you wish to prove that you or your company is not to blame for the death of a person in the workplace, or following an industrial disease, you should seek professional legal advice as soon as you can.

Get in touch with our legal advisors for a free review of your requirements.  If you wish us to represent you, we'll then assign a relevant specialist solicitor to your case.

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  • Recommend the most appropriate action based on your personal needs
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